From my experience, many entrepreneurial business owners have an imposter in their shadow, on their shoulder, in the background. It may be something you’ve lived with for a very long time and not even realised it constituted imposter syndrome.
How do you know if it’s imposter syndrome, and not self-preservation?
Self-preservation is about assessing risks and choosing to take the ones that you believe are achievable. You may take risks you feel are further from your grasp, but go for it anyway, you may decide it’s too risky. The difference between this and imposter syndrome is the way you speak to yourself, and why you make that decision. In the case of self-preservation, you take calculated risks and make your decision in favour of your wellbeing.
If you suffer imposter syndrome, you may be familiar with sentiments like these:
‘When something bad happens, it’s all I can focus on’
‘I dwell on mistakes I’ve made and find it hard to move on’
‘I always seem to assume the worst could happen’
‘I’m not doing as well as I could (or they are)’
‘For sure it’s not going to work, so why start’
‘I don’t think people would listen anyway’.
Are you serving your imposter, or your wellbeing?
Often we choose unhelpful behaviour because we’re responding to a situation based on how its making us feel. We often act to avoid unpleasant or difficult emotions by purposely avoiding a situation.
However, emotions do not necessarily reflect reality or fact.
We may blow things out of proportion, focus on the negative, jump to conclusions, label ourselves or react to certain words (e.g. what we “should”, “must” or “have to” do.)
From my support of mental health organisations I’ve learnt from experts on ways to change the way I think. Certain tactics they’ve taught me have helped me, and I now use those tactics in my conversations to help others.
Tactics for beating imposter syndrome
Here’re some thoughts that may help you challenge or reposition the way you’re thinking or reacting to circumstances, situations or certain people:
- Be realistic. Does anybody go through life without making mistakes or poor decisions?
- You can get a bad review occasionally yet still be successful
- Get a little perspective. Ask yourself if you’re exaggerating. Is it really always true?
- Get balance in your assumptions. Be fair and realistic
- Challenge your thinking immediately by asking yourself what else could be happening and are you letting the negative unbalance the reality?
- Consider what evidence there is to support or contradict your negative thought. Test your predictions or assumptions
- The past doesn’t determine the future. Just because you had a negative experience last time doesn’t mean it will happen again
- Be flexible in your thinking. Replace ‘should,’ ‘must,’ and ‘have to’ with alternatives such as ‘could’, prefer,’ ‘wish,’ or ‘would like to’
- Embrace imperfection
- Try not to let one bad moment spoil a whole day of good work. Look at what else you’ve achieved!
If you still feel your unsettling thoughts are fair and accurate, consider ways to cope or other possible outcomes to protect your wellbeing.
Here are some useful questions to ask yourself:
- If it is true, what’s the worst outcome to overcome?
- What is the most realistic?
- If this does turn out to be true, what can I do to cope or manage the situation?
- How have I coped in the past with similar things?
- How would I advise a friend, if they were in the same situation?
As always, I hope this has been thought provoking and useful for you. If you feel the imposter in you is holding you back, I’d be happy to have more of a conversation around tactics to deal with it.